How Editorial Calendars Can Help You Sell Your Work

Editorial Calendars — are you using them to help sell your writing? You should. They are great tools to help in targeting your article ideas.

The calendars list specific topics that the publications will cover in the coming year. Even though the calendars are made up for advertisers so they can plan their advertising budget for the months ahead, at the same time they give writers a view of which publications to target with article ideas, and when.

That “when” is a valuable help. Most publications prepare their editorial content several months before each issue appears. You can take advantage of that fact by sending out your queries four to six months ahead of their publication schedule. And that schedule is in the calendar.

Most print and electronic publishers produce an editorial calendar every year. I usually start looking for them for the next year in early September and October. And no matter what kind of publication you’re targeting, you can probably find its calendar on the Internet. 2011 looks like a great year to search for the calendars.

Last fall, I searched on Google for “2011 Editorial Calendars” and hundreds of them turned up. They covered every kind of publication you can name, including popular magazines, association publications, trade journals and more.

You can also contact a publication and ask for a copy of their calendar. Publications send them out to advertisers (and prospective advertisers) all the time, but it’s so easy to find the calendars on my computer that I prefer going after them that way.

It’s really helpful to rely on the calendars in my marketing efforts. Try it. I think you’ll soon call them your new best friend.

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Write Your Own Headlines — It’s Easy!

Do you write headlines for your articles? I always do, although I know many
other freelancers who shy away from headlines. They know that editors are responsible for providing the headlines and they prefer to let the editors do their jobs. For my part, I happen to believe that the headline I write might win me points with the editor. And I always hope the editor will not delete my headline in favor of one of his or her own.

A headline that I write can, I think, help move my article up on the editor’s reading pile. And if I’m sending in a query and not a finished article, I always include a headline I call a “working title” in my query. It shows, I think, that I am thinking like an editors. And it may help the editor want to see my article.

Headlines are really easy to write and for the most part and the simplest headlines can help to sell an article. Most of the headlines you find in magazines contain a promise to the reader. If a travel magazine carries your headline, “Find the Perfect Vacation Spot,” the reader assumes you’re going to write about a resort tailor-made for you and your family. And what reader could resist a title called “How to Save Money on Your Taxes.”

In writing your headlines, just concentrate on why readers should spend time with your article. Will it improve their marriage? Will it give them four quick ways to get dinner on the table tonight? Will if save them money on their weekly grocery shopping trips? Help them repair a leaky faucet? The answers to questions like these could help you create attractive headlines for the article you intend to write.

Sometimes you can just take a familiar phrase and turn it around to fashion an article title. You might use a pun or a play on words to get your message across. You can use the same sort of creativity as in your article to come up with the perfect headline for your article.

The most important thing to remember about headline writing: You just have to get started.

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How to Spice up Your Creativity

Way back in 2007, I wrote a post beginning this way:

A pack rat? Guilty. I admit it. I’ve been a pack rat for years. But I don’t hoard everything. No old newspapers, balls of string, or useless items for me. I hoard articles about writing. My treasures are magazine clippings, some yellowed with age, stored in manila folders, labeled and ready for me to read at will. The clippings that I’ve saved for years have been an education in writing. They’ve taught me nearly as much as my four years in Journalism school.

Now, several years later, I’m still hoarding and still learning from what other writers have written. Today I was scanning an old writing magazine and came across an article, “Forum for Thought,” that got me thinking about creativity. The article contained a copy of a 2002 post by James A. Ritchey that caught my eye:

For me, spicing up my creativity means getting away from the computer. I try to meet a new person each week, and I try to go to new places whenever possible. A flea market; a county fair; a play; a little league game; a political dinner; a mountain man convention. And wherever I go, I make it a point to get into a deep conversation with someone I’ve never met. People love to talk. All you have to do is be willing to listen.

And I try to do new things whenever possible. Bungee jumping, learning to crochet, riding a bull at a small rodeo — anything that’s new and different, exciting or mild.

It doesn’t take much of this to spice up my creativity and make me eager to get back to the keyboard.

Just reading his post is enough to glue me to the keyboard. His are all great ways to spice up my creativity and they make me eager to start writing again. And just one of them — a deep conversation with someone I’ve never met before — seems like a great way to get ideas for articles.

How about you? Do you have any tips or quotes for spicing up your creativity?

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Writing Personal Experience Articles

Have you every written a personal experience article? Try it. I think you’ll like it. They’re easy to do and they are one of my favorite forms of writing.

These articles don’t have to be earthshaking or catastrophic; they can, in fact, be fairly simple. They do need some tension or drama but the dramatic or the tension level doesn’t need to be high. Just think of a series of events that happened to you that might be worth sharing with others. I remember one piece I wrote that was about a Saturday afternoon ritual at our house every week when I was growing up — about how my father shined his shoes to get ready for church the next day. It was simple, but it was a personal experience piece. And it worked.

Ever spent time with a famous person, either before or after he or she gained fame? Have you lived in or visited an exotic place? Had an accident or illness or attempted a difficult feat? Set up a party for a group of school children? Taken part in a special holiday celebration? Write about it.

The experience doesn’t even have to be your own. If a friend or colleague had a memorable event, you can write about that. Think about the event, put it into action, talk about the characters involved, the outcome, the lesson you or they learned. Limit the statements about how you felt to two or three specific actions.

Let the story build on its own emotion so readers will relate to what’s happened. Keep the piece smooth and tight. If possible, come up with a surprise ending.

Where should you send your piece? Family and women’s publications are good markets for personal experience pieces, as are many local newspapers and magazines. Look for other markets that use these pieces. The magazine section of a bookstore is a good place to see which other publications use personal experience pieces. Just checking through a variety of them will show you how popular personal experiences pieces are.

Also check the library for copies of additional publications and study the style and structure of the personal experience pieces you find in them. The key to getting these pieces published is to keep them in the mail — either U.S. mail or email. And you should know that, In general, publications pay better than average for good personal experiences.

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